The Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies (LRCCS) successfully launched its China Internship Initiative in summer 2018, sending the first cohort of 10 interns off to work and learn with five Chinese and China-focused organizations in Beijing, Taibei, Shanghai and Detroit. Among them were four students who received funding from the Walter Power Scholarship Fund, which has supported summer experiences for undergraduate University of Michigan students in Greater China (including Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan) since 2015.
Walter C. Power (B.A. 1977, MBA ’91) is a board member and former CEO and Executive Director of The 13 Hotel, a new luxury hotel in Macau. With extensive international gaming experience, Power was one of the first western executives to enter the Macau gaming market in 2003. He was inspired to establish the Walter Power Scholarship Fund at the LRCCS after he visited the University of Macau campus and found many ties to the University of Michigan and Ann Arbor, where he and his wife raised their daughter and maintain a residence. Power’s interest lies in further fostering the relationship between U-M and the country that has been his professional home for nearly two decades.
Established in 1961, the LRCCS is one of the nation’s most prominent centers devoted to a deeper understanding of China, both past and present.
“It’s been more than 50 years since the Center for Chinese Studies was established at the University of Michigan to acquire and share deep knowledge of China, at a time when diplomatic relations between our two countries did not exist,” says Mary Gallagher, LRCCS director. “The need for expertise and education on China, when its influence and global presence have expanded immensely, is no less crucial now than it was then.”
The Chinese Internship Initiative strengthens U-M’s ties with China, cements bonds with alumni living and working in China, and encourages Michigan students to explore and learn about China in myriad ways. Spending a summer as an intern in China and with Chinese organizations immerses students in Chinese culture and language, and deepens their understanding of contemporary and historical issues related to China. It also exposes students to the practical implications of living and working in China, including navigating sometimes tricky public transportation systems and basic tasks like buying groceries.
A Summer Studying Future Tech in Shanghai Leads to Grad School
With the support of the Walter Power Scholarship Fund, recent Data Science graduate Steve Beattie (B.S. ‘19) interned with ViewFin in Shanghai, a financial technology company that specializes in blockchain and cryptocurrency. Steve was drawn to China by his interest in the cutting-edge work China has been doing in data analysis and artificial intelligence. At ViewFin, he found his Chinese colleagues and supervisor welcoming and kind, happy to share lunch hours, willing to work with him on his fledgling Mandarin language skills, and committed to identifying research and development projects that aligned with both ViewFin’s goals and Steve’s interests.
“The internship experience was so much more than just the work that I was able to do, it was a chance to get to know myself, to grow, and to explore the world. Not only did I have the opportunity to develop essential skills in my field, but I was able to do so in a truly multicultural environment. I regularly got a chance to work with people from all over the world. ” Steve says. “I don’t think I could have found an internship like this, at the intersection of data analysis and blockchain technology, in many other places besides China.”
In his free time, Steve explored the country’s natural beauty and rich cultural history, including hiking in China's national parks and sampling the delicious food of China’s large diversity of regional cultures and ethnic backgrounds.
“The natural environment there is amazing, and various aspects of their history are interwoven into cities, society, and daily life in ways that I don’t see as often in America,” he notes.
Steve will return to China this fall to begin graduate studies. Due in part to a recommendation from his internship supervisor at ViewFin, Steve was accepted into the master’s program in Data Science and Information Technology at Tsinghua-Berkeley Shenzhen Institute (TBSI). He hopes to eventually pursue a Ph.D. One of his interests is how the Chinese are combining data science and technology with social and economic development, and he’s excited about the interesting work TBSI is doing in the development of smart cities, in which energy is drawn from green and renewable sources and managed on an AI-driven smart grid.
“I really believe the opportunity to attend graduate school in China wouldn’t have been possible without the valuable and multi-faceted experience that I gained during my internship in Shanghai last summer,” Steve reflects.
Springboard to a Career
Elena Hubbell (B.A. ‘18) also received support from the Walter Power Scholarship Fund for her summer 2018 internship. Elena interned in Detroit with the Michigan-China Innovation Center (MCIC), which focuses on developing business partnerships and enhancing cooperation between China and Michigan. For example, MCIC provides strategic assistance when the governor of Michigan visits China or a Chinese company is interested in investing in Michigan. As an intern, Elena helped organize a delegation of Chinese officials from three provinces who toured Michigan and discussed partnerships and trade deals.
"As an intern, I was able get hands on-experience with government-to-government relations, as well as learn the ins and outs of investment at a state level," Elena says.
Following her internship in 2018, Elena was hired full time by MCIC and, in the course of her work, has traveled to China on professional trips and has been improving her Chinese language abilities.
"I currently work as an Executive Assistant for MCIC and I know that this wouldn’t have been possible without my LRCCS scholarship," she says. "I am so happy that I have the opportunity to work in my field of interest, and I will always be grateful to LRCCS and its staff for the positive effect they had on my life."
Getting More Students to China
Student interest and demand for Chinese internships is growing. In 2018, LRCCS received almost 80 internship applications from students across the university, including LSA, the Ross School of Business, the School of Information, and the College of Engineering, for just ten available positions. Through the China Internship Initiative, LRCCS is committed to connecting students from all 19 schools and colleges at U-M to summer internships in Greater China.
The Initiative’s continued success is reliant on two important factors. The first, scholarship funding from donors like Walter C. Power, which offsets living costs and travel expenses, ensures that talented students with professional interests in China are able to accept unpaid internships. Equally crucial are partnerships with employers in Greater China, many of whom are U-M alumni committed to connecting fellow Wolverines to exciting and challenging positions within their own companies and industries. LRCCS is actively working to develop these partnerships with Chinese employers so that U-M students can explore and apply to internship opportunities across different industries and interests. Providing a summer internship position offers employers access to enthusiastic and talented undergraduates, while giving students invaluable, hands-on work experience that will propel them into a fulfilling career following graduation.
Chinese internships are attractive to undergraduate students at the University of Michigan for a number of reasons. Some are interested in gaining international business experience, some are studying international and US-China relations, others are Chinese studies or Chinese language majors whose goal is to immerse themselves in Chinese life, and others are simply looking for a unique international experience. Whatever the reason they choose to spend a summer in China for an internship, each student returns to campus with greater understanding and new international connections in the world’s most populous country and second largest economy.